zena carlota




“The true use of music is to become musical in one's thoughts, words and actions”

-Hazrat Inayat Khan

Zena Carlota is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, visual and theater artist whose work navigates the space between dreams, ancestry and memory in sound and imagery. Inspired by the Jaliyaa music tradition of West Africa, Zena has spent the past 12 years traveling in the US, West Africa and Europe studying the Kora, a 21-string West African bridge harp that originates from the Malian Empire during the 13th century. Learning both ritual and experimental forms of indigenous string music and storytelling with masters from The Gambia, and Guineau, she most recently completing an intensive training in Paris with Grammy award winner, and Kora virtuoso, Toumani Diabate of Mali.

These teachings are the threads that have allowed Zena to combine the ancient past with the present moment, using language as both a sacred invocation of her ancestry, and musical inspiration, by singing traditional and original songs in English, Bambara, Arabic and Spanish. Zena has opened spaces for Rising Appalachia, Climbing Poetree, Grammy nominees Amadou & Miriam and two-time Latin Grammy winner and former Minister of Culture of Peru, Susana Baca. Her most recent collaboration was with dancer/storyteller Zuleikha, frame drum master and Grammy winner Glen Velez, cellist Eugene Friesen, and poet/Rumi interpreter Coleman Barks for the Rumi Concert.


Afro PunkKQED / SF Weekly / KALW Curbed.com 

Listening to Zena is a hauntingly beautiful experience
— curbed